ABU DHABI // Until yesterday, Alia al Shamlan had her heart set on a media career. Now, she may go into motorsport.
The 19-year-old applied media student at Dubai Women's College was one of 300 who attended a workshop on Yas Island designed to entice students into the world of Formula One. In her case, it worked.
"If I had the opportunity to work in Formula One now, I would jump at it," she said. "I watched the Grand Prix at home last year and loved the noise of the cars, and the whole spectacle."
The F1 driver Karun Chandock was joined by Brett Volker, the head of brand for Virgin Racing, and Sven Schaefer, the manager of accounts and events for Sauber Racing. Also present were some of the F1 drivers' fitness instructors. Chandock said he had to balance his driving with the business. "Ayrton Senna once said the sport of F1 is business," he said, referring to the late former F1 champion.
Natalie Krushner, the global events director for KHP Consulting, which specialises in F1 events sponsorship, PR and communications, said the event was an attempt to bridge the gap between the local community and F1.
"Formula One is a little bit elitist and we try to go back to the grass-roots elements and try to engage people about motorsport," she said. "We really want to incorporate everyone but we want to push Emirati kids." Half the challenge, she said, was opening them up to the idea that there were more jobs in the sport than just driving. Roger Cleary, Mark Webber's personal trainer, explained the types of training schedules involved. They include jiu jitsu, cycling and even triathlons. "It is fantastic for them [the students] to get a better understanding of what these guys go though so they can appreciate the racing more," he said.
Today, another 300 students will get an insight into public relations, engineering and how the media operate around the event. The day will include a lecture on the media and promotional side of F1. "I always liked event management and this is something I'd be interested in," Ms al Shamlan said. "This has widened my perspective on the business."